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Neighborhood Development

VOICE launches Communities First Initiative

On June 9th, approximately 350 VOICE Arlington / Alexandria leaders launched their Communities First Initiative.  The premise is simple - in the wake of the arrival of Amazon, Virginia Tech, Google, and other large employers to our neighborhoods, VOICE believes that the changes coming to the region should benefit our COMMUNITIES FIRST, by dedicating over $300 million of the projected, new local tax revenue brought by Amazon to fund affordable housing, equity in education and career opportunities initiatives for our communities in Arlington and Alexandria.
At the action, VOICE received commitments from Alexandria Mayor Wilson, Arlington County Board Chair Dorsey, Arlington County Board Member Cristol, and Alexandria City Council Members Aguirre and Seifeldein to work with VOICE on this initiative.  
Over the course of the summer and fall, VOICE will continue to be push elected officials to put our communities first,  and will host listening and training sessions with thousands of residents around the Communities First Initiative. 
Press link HERE

AIM Wins more than $70 Million for Affordable Housing, After-School and Immigration

Low-income students, immigrant families, and households of all ages will benefit from more than $70 Million in victories from Action In Montgomery (AIM) this year. These victories followed an accountability action with over 1200 residents in May 2018 and a 500-person action in March 2019, along with ongoing presence and turn-out at hearings throughout the spring. 
After a tough budget season and much deliberation, Montgomery’s Council kept the promises they made to AIM in 2018 to expand high-quality after school programs to 1200 students in the county’s high poverty elementary schools which overwhelmingly serve students of color and ESL students. The program is modeled after BUILD’s Child First in Baltimore and includes an hour of academics from teachers in the school, an hour of enrichment, and a hot meal, 5 days a week. AIM trains the parents in leadership and organizing to address local issues facing families. 
AIM first organized for dedicated funding for affordable housing over 15 years ago, and since then AIM leader have won increased funding annually. This year AIM won $68 Million in the fund, bringing the total over time to over $725 Million. 
During listening sessions, dozens and dozens of undocumented immigrants shared their fears of being deported and separated from their young children. Leaders learned that 40% of the families that are seen by Catholic Charities have a legal pathway for staying in the U.S., but do not have the means to hire immigration lawyers to obtain legal status. For the second year, AIM worked with African and Latino immigrants to win $540,000 to provide lawyers to keep more families together and help families feel more secure in their communities.

DICO-IAF in Germany Posts Big Local Win

Since 2017, SO! Mit Uns (The Community Organization in the Southeast of Berlin) has been fighting to rescue Ferry F11, which is the oldest public ferry line in Berlin. After a bridge was built half mile away in 2017, the Senate wanted to abolish the line. SO! Mit Uns's work over the past two years were able to extend the ferry service for one year. SO! Mit Uns kept fighting.  In Februrary, 2019 the Senate Department for Transport agreed to integrate the Ferry F11 into public transport plans, so that the ferry will drive until 2023.  The ferry transports more than 100.000 people and 30.000 bicycles a year.

AIM Celebrates Ribbon Cutting for Historic African American Community Center after Decades-Long Fight for Justice

Community Members of Good Hope Neighborhood | Photo by Brianna Rhodes
AIM celebrated the ribbon cutting for Good Hope Community Center, the last of four community centers in historically African American neighborhoods in Montgomery County. Montgomery County has a rich history of neighborhoods where people live on land their ancestors bought when they were freed from slavery. For most of this history, the neighborhoods were overlooked and neglected.
“Until the county renovated the Ross Boddy Community center two years ago, the school building had changed very little since I was a student there in the segregated 1950’s,” said Rev. Pearl Selby of Oak Grove AME Zion. “The renovations of Ross Boddy, Good Hope, Scotland and Plum Gar finally gave these centers the dignity they deserve.”
Starting in the 1990’s, neighborhood leaders could not get even basic repairs in the community centers in Historic African-American neighborhoods, while beautiful new centers were being built in other parts of the county. These centers played a unique role as gathering places for communities that had dispersed over time. Flooding, windows that would not open, burnt out light bulbs that were never replaced, and concrete floors that hurt the joints of seniors in exercise classes were all common.
Starting in 2005, leaders gathered together as part of Action In Montgomery, and realized this was happening not just in their individual neighborhood center, but across the county. AIM brought together its broader network of congregations to support the issue.
In 2006 County Council and County Executive Candidates promised AIM leaders they would include $29 Million in funding to renovate these centers in the budget, but by early 2007 that promise looked like it might end up being like all of the previous promises to these communities—empty.
To move the issue, AIM held a series of actions at the centers, inviting councilmembers to see for themselves the terrible disrepair that had been allowed to fester, culminating in an action in April 2007 with over 1000 Montgomery County citizens—white, black, and Latino. African-American leaders taught the history of segregation in Montgomery County from their own personal experiences. This included African-American students not being offered 12th grade education, denying them a high school degree and students having to pay to ride the bus for dozens of miles to attend the only high school for African-Americans until 1958. At the action AIM secured the commitments of a majority of the Council to support full funding for the centers’ renovation.
The ribbon cutting at Good Hope marks the end of the rebuilding and renovating of these four centers. 
Links to all four of the recreation centers. 

ReBUILD Metro Secures $1.5 Million from Weinberg Foundation to Revitalize Johnston Square Neighborhood

Aerial perspective of Greenmount and Chase in Johnston Square neighborhood
ReBUILD Metro, a third-party developer that works with Metro IAF affiliate, BUILD, to revitalize neighborhoods, secured $1.5 million from the Weinberg Foundation to fill the gap of a 60 unit LIHTC building in Johnston Square in Baltimore. Fourteen homes have already been rehabbed, and this building is the turn-key development needed to truly launch BUILD's rebuilding work in Johnston Square, which will be the 4th neighborhood BUILD is rebuilding in East Baltimore.

Jersey City Together's push for affordability gathers steam, Mayor signs on to 50% affordability

Mayor Fulup & Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry Sr.

In January, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop sent a letter to Honeywell to demand an increase in affordability on a 95-acre site from 5% to 50%. This comes after Jersey City Together spoke to thousands of people across Jersey City and secured commitments from the majority of the city council in support of this change. The Interfaith Community Organization, a previous IAF affiliate, successfully sued Honeywell to force remediation of chromium contamination on the site decades ago. Article in the Jersey Journal here.

Rev. Laurie Wurm, a former leader with Interfaith Community Organization, and the city council candidates just before the election.